F5 tweaks SSL VPN software for easier use

F5 is upgrading the software for its SSL VPN gear to make it easier to use and to manage.

Called EasyConnect, the FirePass 6.0 version software includes a single sign-on feature that enables users to log in to the standard Windows login screen and be connected to the VPN, saving a step and avoiding some end user confusion.

The software also gets rid of confusing browser pop-ups that often led to users failing to access the applications they sought. Users who logged in to F5 SSL VPN portals and clicked on a particular application would be faced with the browser popping up to connect them to the application. Users often perceived this as an error and closed the browser, F5 says.

A new Windows Dialer integration makes it possible to add SSL VPN as an option that end users just click on to connect to the VPN. This enables them to use the dialer - a familiar tool - to connect to the VPN.

The SSL VPNs are being made more secure by adding a pre-log-in scan of remote computers that makes sure they are properly configured before they are allowed on to the VPN. Before, F5 offered the endpoint check of machines entering the VPN via Web browser, but not for machines using an F5 SSL VPN client.

FirePass 6.0 adds an API that enables other vendors' dialer programs to automatically launch the VPN. This was created for service provider iPass to use with its customers, but the API is available to others.

The software upgrade adds a way to make reaching non-Web applications easier by adding a new method called Dynamic Application Tunnels. These enable proxying communications between client side applications and application servers accessed via the VPN.

Such proxying generally requires administrative rights to the remote machine to set up the proxy tunnels, but Dynamic Application Tunnels can do so without those rights and without altering the host application. F5 won't say exactly how it does that, and the method is patent pending.

FirePass 6.0 is available May 31.

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